Biden also honored 14 Americans who stood up for democracy after the 2020 election, presented medals to members of law enforcement, including Capitol Police officers who stopped rioters, as well as those who stood up to Trump’s onslaught of lies Officers were also felicitated.
Even two years later, the pictures from that day are horrifying. The scene that unfolded – crowds storming police barricades, smashing windows, then storming the seats of power – was one that Americans are used to seeing in faraway countries with authoritarian regimes.
But Biden made clear that the violence — which has included a shooting at the Capitol, one death, and an armed occupation of the Senate floor — was born out of a man sworn to protect the very democratic traditions that the rioters called his Had tried to undo in governance. name.
“Our democracy was attacked. The US Capitol was breached, which has never happened before in the history of our country, even in a civil war,” said Biden, who warned that the forces of anti-democracy had not subsided.
“We know it can happen again,” Biden said. “There are no guarantees. Except us. Everyone except you.
The event, emotional at times, focused largely on those who had sacrificed so much that day. Biden detailed the attacks in the capital and awarded several law enforcement officers, including Michael Fanon, Harry Dunn and Eugene Goodman, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.
There were other respected local officials such as Russell “Rusty” Bowers, former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, as well as Georgia poll workers Shay Moss and Ruby Freeman, who faced threats on their lives from Trump supporters in the weeks following the 2020 election. Election.
Three of the medals awarded to law enforcement officers were awarded posthumously: Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood of the US Capitol Police and Jeffrey Smith of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police. Siknik suffered a stroke the day after the riot; Smith and Liebengood both committed suicide after the mutiny.
“All of America saw this on television. America owes you,” the president said. “This is a gratitude to you all that we cannot fully repay until we live up to what you “
Trump spent late 2020 declaring the election “rigged” and making unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud that multiple federal courts and senior members of his administration said did not exist. Trump was enabled by dozens of fellow Republicans wanting to object to the count, a maneuver they knew would delay but not change the outcome.
This year, the January 6 anniversary fell on a moment of political opportunity for Biden. He addressed the nation at the same time as the Republican-led House of Representatives was trying to choose its next speaker, and Trump, the GOP’s only declared presidential candidate, continued his widely decried election denial.
Domestic threats against the country’s democracy have been a familiar theme for Biden, who launched his presidential campaign because he felt Trump was tearing at the country’s fabric.
As the general election campaign drew to a close last fall, Biden delivered a pair of speeches urging vigilance against violent anti-democratic forces, one set against the backdrop of Independence Hall and the other, just days before the midterms, in a brutal attack on the House. After Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Although the midterms have passed and the House January 6 committee has completed its work, Biden will continue to sound the alarm in the coming months, believing that the danger is not averted.
The president’s speech on Friday came as the leadership of the House hung in the balance, with a right-wing faction of the GOP paralyzing the process of selecting the speaker. Many of those same lawmakers — as well as others expected to play prominent roles in the new Congress — voted against Biden’s certification and pushed forward false claims of election fraud.
And while many of the most prominent electoral deniers lost in November, West Wing allies also point to Trump’s shadow over the political landscape. Although the former president has become politically vulnerable in recent months, many close to Biden believe Trump will still emerge as the GOP presidential nominee next year. As Biden takes steps to launch his own campaign in the coming months, some in his orbit are preparing to make Jan. 6 a central issue in the campaign.
Eli Stokols contributed to this report.
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